REVIEW / Adrift (PS4)

 

The dream of becoming an astronaut is one that many of us had as a child; the very thought of exploring space still excites me. Developer Three One Zero does a brilliant job in creating a disturbingly beautiful environment and atmosphere for you to play through in Adr1ft. Looking down on Earth through a space station window is one of the best experiences I’ve had in gaming and one I’ll remember for a long time. Unfortunately, i’ll be remembering my time with Adr1ft more for it’s poor story delivery and repetitive gameplay.

 

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Adr1ft is set aboard the Northstar IV space station. You play through the story as Alex Oshima, commander of the Northstar IV, in her quest to restore enough power to the space station to launch an evacuation pod. The moment you drift through the first cabin door you are welcomed with a very tranquil but eerie atmosphere; lifeless debris floats in the absence of gravity and shredded hulls make you question, “what happen here?” Moving between devastated chunks of the space station is when you really get the sense scale the game creates; looking down on Earth really does make you feel like a tiny human lost in space.

Be careful not to get too caught up in taking in the beautiful cosmos landscape around you. Adr1ft soon reminds you that this is a survival exploration game. Following the accident on the space station, your suit is damaged, meaning you are continuously losing oxygen. How much oxygen depends on how active you are.

 

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Oxygen can be replenished through canisters found floating around the devastated wreck of a space station. The element of searching for oxygen can create real nail biting moments; on more than one occasion I would be on my last breath, with fingers stretching and the fear of suffocation, hoping to reach a canister in time. This is where Adr1ft really stood out for me, creating some memorable moments through its awe-inspiring environment and ever present sense of fear and loneliness.

Movement around the space station feels slow and sluggish, but this adds to the sense of realism of just how tricky in must be to orientate yourself in zero gravity. Although the controls can take a little getting use to, once you have them down your be gliding through the space station with ease… well most of it. The biggest frustration with the movement is when navigating through more confined spaces, regularly you’ll find yourself bouncing off different surfaces, at times I felt more like a pinball than a surviving astronaut of a space disaster.

 

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As previously mentioned, the main focus of the game is to restore enough power to launch an evacuation shuttle. The first 2 hours of gameplay I really enjoyed floating around the atmospheric space station repairing different modules, mostly due to the beautiful environments the game kept throwing at me. Unfortunately, this is as deep as the game goes. The moment I realized I was going to spend the rest of my time aboard the NorthStar IV moving from point A to point B to fix something, only to move back to point A again, my heart sunk.

The best moments from the story come through uncovering information about the crew and what caused the disaster; these can be found in the form of well written emails between crew members or excellent voice acted audio files. The audio files carry some emotion but don’t quite reach the heights of the audio files found in games like Gone Home. Although these snippets of information are the driving force of the story, I often had to spend way too long completing repetitive mundane tasks until I would find the next one.

 

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I wanted to love Adr1ft so much, and at times I did. The Northstar IV space station is one of the most breath-taking environments I’ve yet to explore in a video game, creating some truly memorable experiences. Unfortunately you soon realize the games has you doing the same task over and over and over again, which can disengaging you from some well written although vague story. Even though the game creates some true nail-biting moments, the grind of repetitive tasks and lack of weight to the story left me questioning me childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.

 

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